St George’s opened the doors of its new laboratory for processing blood samples of pregnant women whose babies are at a high risk of developing Down’s, Edwards’s and Patau’s syndromes.

The simple blood test for chromosomal disorders – called the SAFE test – is a significant improvement on the standard invasive test (CVS test) in pregnancy, which carries a risk of miscarriage.

Professor Basky Thilaganathan who is director of the fetal medicine unit at St George’s,  said, “The new laboratory will make a huge difference to women at high risk of developing a baby with a chromosomal defect anywhere in the country, not just in our region in South West London and Surrey.”

Professor Basky

“The laboratory is the first of its kind in the NHS to offer the SAFE test free to women. We anticipate that we will be used by many other hospitals across the country for this service. For the women involved, they will be spared tedious travelling as the blood sample can be taken in the woman’s local NHS environment. Previously, women had to travel to St George’s to be screened and tested if they were classed as ‘high risk’. In addition, as the SAFE test is non-invasive, women will completely avoid the risk of miscarriage which comes with the older CVS test. The new test is over 99% accurate and results are available within 5 days. This gives us valuable time to discuss next steps with patients”.

The SAFE test is available to women on the NHS who are assessed as ‘high risk’ from standard screening tests undertaken locally such as the nuchal, combined or maternal serum screening tests. Women who are interested in receiving the SAFE test should contact their local healthcare practitioners. For further information, please contact Louise Shaw from the fetal medicine unit.